By Ben Rodgers
BROWN COUNTY – As it stands now, the Brown County Fair plans to return for Aug. 19-23 with the full fair experience, according to event organizers.
“We are a mid-August fair start date, and you look at all their different steps, phase one, two, three (of the Badger Bounce Back Plan) and hopefully we’ll be in phase three no problem,” said Steve Corrigan, president of the Brown County Fair Association. “We’re following as many of the recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that we can possibly follow. There will be an abundance of hand sanitizers, wash stations, disinfectants that we normally don’t use that will be in abundance this year.”
Corrigan said research and planning went into the decision to move forward with the fair with COVID-19 still in the area, and an outbreak could change the decision.
“We’re structured with a five member executive board and the majority of those five members have spent a minimum of 10-15 hours a week since this started researching everything we could to find out about the virus,” he said. “We met weekly with our state fair association and bi-weekly with the international fair association, and we’re gathering information from all the fairs in our state and other states.”
Corrigan said the fair won’t skimp on things people enjoy, like food and the midway experience.
“It’ll be the fair that everybody knows about,” he said. “We are in America. I believe our citizens have the right to choose what they want to do. We are not forcing anyone to attend the Brown County Fair. That’s a conscious decision that exhibitors and the spectators make on their own.”
Corrigan said it wasn’t a financial decision to hold the fair this year, but about opportunities for youth.
“We’re really a youth program,” he said. “People always forget county fairs are youth programming more than anything. To showcase the youth, we try to put on an event so people will come.”
4-H and FFA
Ben Hoppe, 4-H program educator for Brown County, said the possibilities are endless for different projects kids can exhibit.
“You can have the more traditional fair exhibits like a dairy animal to show, or a swine animal, or poultry, but then you also get some more unique things, like LEGO creations or a decorated cake,” Hoppe said. “Our shooting sports program, in a normal year, would enter their archery targets and have them judged. From a competitive level, it goes from everything to animals to art and everything in between.”
He said 4-H exhibitors can range from 5 to 19 years old and work on the exhibit throughout the year.
“The 4-H year begins in fall, and really, 4-Hers are spending that entire time all the way through summer learning about a specific project, something that interests them,” Hoppe said. “For some that may be animals, or art, or food, but they spend that time diving into those topics and learning as much as they can about it.”
Hoppe said 4-H has guidelines on its website for parents to consider when they decide if they want their child to participate in exhibits.
Students who don’t participate in exhibits, but have an interest in agriculture, can also learn at the fair, said Betty Krcma, Green Bay Preble FFA advisor.
“For the Preble FFA members, one of the big things we do, we work with the Brown County Ag Ventures Tent, and this is something with the Brown County Dairy Promotion Committee,” Krcma said. “There’s a number of people, there’s a tent that has a whole bunch of different agricultural activities that relate to having a better understanding of what’s going on in the agriculture world and thinking about careers in those different areas.”
She said because Preble is an urban school, most of her students won’t exhibit animals, but they make friends with those from De Pere, Denmark or Wrightstown who do.
“For our Preble students who may not come from farms, but they are intrigued about what goes on at farms, these are opportunities for them to network with people in the agriculture industry,” Krcma said.
She said because of farmers recently dumping milk and increased meat prices, everyone could use some agriculture education.
“As an agriculture teacher in an urban area, I emphasize how our students need to understand what’s going on at the farms because I truly feel agriculture is everybody’s business.”
She said the decision to allow students at the fair will come from the Green Bay Area Public School District with input from Brown County Public Health and parents.
Other fairs in question
Jayme Buttke, executive secretary treasure for the Wisconsin Association of Fairs, said all but about 20 fairs are going to have a decision as to holding the fair or not by the Fourth of July.
Nearby, Door and Kewaunee counties cancelled their fairs, while the state fair near Milwaukee has also been called off.
“At the end of the day, we want to have fairs,” Buttke said. “We want to host fairs, we are just going through all the different areas, ingredients if you will, to make sure the pieces fit.”
She said the association works with 75 state-aided state, county and district fairs and has been meeting every Thursday since the first week of April with 70-90 people on a Zoom call about how to proceed.
As of June 5, across Wisconsin 44 of 75 association fairs are planned for 2020.
“Everyone has the right to go or not go, so it’s OK if you don’t want to go to a fair if you’re not comfortable,” Buttke said. “I get it. Everyone has that choice. But, if you can make it work for those that want to go, make it happen.”